“Kung Fu Ninja.” That was the name of the paddle that Coach Moye used when I played high school football back in Longview, Texas. See, when coach had had enough of our horsing around, not listening, and not paying attention, he would yell, “Kung Fu!” That meant the next person that that made a noise would feel the wrath of the Kung Fu Ninja. 

For many of us, this is the image we conjure up when we think of the word “coach.” Our high school football coaches — or baseball, or basketball, or whatever — barked orders, used paddles, and pushed us until we thought we were going to sweat every ounce of fluid from our bodies.

However, there is something else that those coaches did: They cared about us. And there was a deep compassion for us as their players. Yes, they were hard on us, but they did it because they loved us. Everything that they pushed us to do was to make us better. They held us accountable, and there were consequences if we didn’t follow through.

Business managers are typically our best salespeople in the dealership. They are our highest profit-producing employees, especially as it relates to net profit. However in our industry, we tend to focus on them the least, as it relates to coaching and developing. The old-school process has been, “If I have to coach them, I’ll just replace them with someone that can do the job.” 

I would challenge that. Even great players must be coached. Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player that ever played, but he never stopped practicing his free throws. Tony Gwynn was considered the best hitter in baseball history. He had eight batting titles. Yet he still took batting practice every day. In the words of the NBA coach Doc Rivers, “Average players want to be left alone. Great players want to be coached.”

To our business managers, this is who we are. We are coaches because we are dedicated. We are dedicated to the direction, dedicated to the instruction, and dedicated to the training of our business managers. This is what makes us a coach. To be successful, we must earn our players’ trust, and that means putting the business manager’s interests ahead of your own. Let’s look at how to coach the person, the process, and the pay plan. 

The Person

To coach someone, we must first find out what is important to them in their personal lives. Are they trying to buy a new house? Maybe they are saving up for a family vacation. Maybe they are saving up to make sure they can put their children through college. The point is, you need to find out what is important to them and how you can help them achieve it.

Next, find out what is important to them in their career. Do they have a monthly goal? More than likely they do, because their pay plan is probably tied to it. Do they have a yearly goal? Hopefully you completed a forecast for the year with them and the dealer. Do they have a five-year career goal? A 10-year career goal? An overall career goal? Maybe they would like to be a general manager or a dealer one day. Use that to show them how the efforts that they put in today can help them achieve their long-term career goals tomorrow.

What are their strengths and weaknesses? Do they know what they are? Are they willing to find out? They will allow you to point out their areas of weakness and let you coach them if you establish that trust.

The Process

Coaches collect their plays, schemes, and strategies in playbooks. Our playbook is the process, and we need to coach it. 

Start by building a foundation of your F&I sales process. A good place to start is with an offsite F&I school. Why offsite? Because it’s much like a training camp. Baseball players go to Arizona or Florida for spring training. Football players go to minicamps. That’s where they learn their playbook and establish the foundation for the rest of the season. An offsite F&I school does the same thing: It allows your business managers to get away from all the distractions and learn their “playbook” from start to finish. From introduction to document disclosure, they will come home prepared. 

Once they get back to the dealership, break the process up into multiple sections and work on one section at a time, each time that you are in the store. Role-play with the business manager and take notes if needed. Keep it to 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Use current production and areas of opportunity to decide where to coach. If the business manager has let VSC penetration slip, try working on the manufacturer’s limited warranty graph. Look for areas that could create more need for a VSC.

The Pay Plan

Coach the pay plan. To start off with, you need to know what the pay plan is. Then you need to have access to a reporting tool that gives you accurate data. Frame production goals around the pay plan and dollarize. Once you have dollarized the increase, you can tie the increased compensation back to their personal goals. You can tie it back to the home they want to buy. You can tie it to the vacation they want to take. Or tie it back to that college fund for their children. 

If needed, consider a new pay plan option. If increased production doesn’t increase compensation for the business manager, you may need to suggest a different pay plan.

The overarching goal is to get to know your players and how to motivate them. Establish the playbook and practice it until it becomes muscle memory. Be a mentor, a teacher, and a coach. And when you become a coach, when you have that trust relationship, when you put the business managers interest before your own, everybody benefits — including the dealer, the business manager, and your agency.